From his blog:
As I watched Bob Rae’s admittedly thoughtful question of Privilege tabled earlier today in the House of Commons alleging Ministerial impropriety regarding the F-35 Fighter Jet (non) procurement, I was reminded of the British sitcom/mocumentary “Yes Minister”. In it, a rather hapless politician is routinely “managed” by his more intelligent Deputy Minister.
According to the former, Ministers are responsible to the House of Commons for the operations of their respective departments. Something as significant as a $10B underestimate in Canada’s then largest military procurement would theoretically call for a Minister’s resignation. However, given the highly technical and unique market regarding military procurement, is it realistic to expect politicians to have the requisite technical expertise regarding said purchase??
Well, you can see where this is going. Peter MacKay = the hapless Minister manipulated by clever bureaucrats. Rathgerber's conclusion makes this clear:
Parliament’s prerogative is to hold Ministers to account. In turn, Responsible Government mandates that Ministers are responsible to Parliament for their respective departments. Mr. Rae’s Point of Privilege raises a pivotal question for our Parliamentary Democracy. Is Parliament entitled to accurate information to hold the Government to account and assure the public purse is spent wisely? Or can a bureaucracy with superior technical expertise “manage” Ministers and in turn Parliament with impunity??
Rathgeber is quite literally arguing that Peter MacKay is not smart enough to control his department, and therefore not smart enough to be responsible for the F-35 budgeting cock-up. Apparently, it isn't a disqualifying mark for a government minister to be ignorant of his file. A curious defense to say the least. But my favorite bit from the blog post is this gem:
Thankfully, little public money has actually been spent on this file; that is if you consider $200M little public money!! It is, however, less than 1% of $25B (whewwww!!)
Yeah well, $1,000,000,000 here, $1,000,000,000 there and pretty soon you're talking real money.